South LA’s MLK Jr. Hospital became a COVID hotspot. Other hospitals didn’t step in to help

ER case manager Myaha Tovar, 24, is given the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 17, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

More than 9000 people in LA died of COVID-19 in December and January alone. South LA's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital was at the center of the crisis. It serves some of the county’s poorest residents who live in the areas hit hardest by the virus, and who are more likely to die from it. During the worst days of the outbreak, MLK was treating more COVID-19 patients than much larger LA hospitals.

New York Times correspondent Sheri Fink spent about a week inside MLK last month. While she was there, roughly a quarter of all the COVID-19 patients in the hospital were dying from the virus.

“They had more patients per licensed bed than any other hospital in like a 15 mile radius,” she says. 

Fink won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina. She later turned that reporting into a book called “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital.”

Credits

Guest:
Sheri Fink - correspondent for the New York Times; author of “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital”

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Angie Perrin, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Bennett Purser